Skiers are state champs, just not on paper

Jon MaletzAspen, CO Colorado
Aspen forward Ryder Fyrwald skates down the ice in Feb. 23s state semifinals against Air Academy at the Denver Coliseum. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

ASPEN Balance defined the Aspen Hockey team this season. A deep and talented roster was the formula that propelled the Skiers to their first state title. It may also have been a system that cost Aspen players individual postseason recognition. The state champions were sparsely represented on Colorados 2007 All-State Team, announced Wednesday. Of the 45 players receiving postseason recognition, only three Skiers made the list. Senior Ryder Fyrwald and junior Simon Dolginow were second team selections, and senior Nicky Anastas was honorable mention. Aspen coach Al Butler, whose team outscored opponents, 21-6, during a fourgame playoff run that culminated in Saturdays title game win over top-seeded Ralston Valley, was disappointed Thursday. Personally, I think we very much deserved to have at least one on [the first team], Butler said. Sometimes when youre doing these polls, its strictly based on stats. You dont get a true feel for how strong an individual is. The Colorado High School Activities Association met Feb. 11 to determine seeding for the boys state tournament. On that day, coaches gathered to nominate the players they deemed worthy of allstate consideration. Lewis Palmer coach Steve Fillo, secretary of the Colorado High School Ice Hockey Coaches Association, compiled the nominations with statistics and a few sentences on each player to hand out to the states 25 coaches. From there, coaches chose the top six players at each position; the player they felt deserved the top spot earned six points, the second earned five points and so on. The top three vote-getting forwards, two defensman and one goalie constituted the first team. Fyrwald, one of 48 forwards nominated from the 25 teams, tied for fourth in the voting. Aspens senior captain led the Skiers with 21 goals and 35 points. He was at his best in the postseason, recording a hat trick including the eventual game-winning goal in the Skiers 71 quarterfinal rout of Lewis Palmer. Fyrwald made a believer out of Fillo, who said Fyrwald was one of the top three forwards. Fillo chose not to vote because his son was on the ballot and because he thought using his vote to break ties would be an abuse of power. After watching [Fyrwald] play, there was little doubt he was second- or thirdbest, Fillo said. None of those Aspen guys really stood out, and thats what was scary about them. You couldnt focus on any two guys. We went toe-to-toe with them for a while, but then the dam broke. They play the game how youre supposed to play. For those types of teams its tough to get noticed for all-star teams, but those are the teams that win championships. Statistics inevitably become the primary comparison tool, Fillo said, but such information can be skewed. He pointed to standout Air Academy forwards Brandon Williams and Taylor Henricks, who combined for 49 goals. No one else on their team did squat, Fillo said. Those two guys did all the damage, and you were always aware of them. They got all the attention. Butler agreed. Williams scored the first one [ in the semifinals], but where were those two the rest of the game? he said. When you do these guys strictly on stats, you dont get a feel for what games they do things in. They may have scored 15 goals against all weak teams. Those guys are probably playing at least half the game, if not more, on the ice. Our group has three solid lines, and we dont need our top two or three players out there all the time. We need them fresh when the game is on the line. A hurt shoulder against Regis and missing the 8-2 win Feb. 10 over Columbine hurt Fyrwalds overall numbers. So, too, did Colorado Academys forfeit Feb. 1, a game Fyrwald and others couldve used to bolster their stats. But personal accolades werent Fyrwalds main objective, Butler said. He was always out there and always very intense. He hates to lose, Butler said. He pretty much does whatever he feels he needs to do to get it done. No one deserved it more than he did. Versatile defensman Dolginow chipped in with 10 goals and 11 assists. He broke a scoreless tie in the state quarterfinals with a second-period goal that helped spark Aspens seven-goal outburst. Our style is to push the puck and try to dictate the pace of play. The only way to do that is with defensive prowess, and Simon fits that bill, Butler said. Sometimes hes our fourth forward in the zone creating havoc, and hes scored some huge goals. He has a sense where he knows when to get in there and make something happen, or when to get back. What Anastas lacks in stature he makes up for with heart and desire, Butler said. Anastas second-period goal in Saturdays title game proved to be the game winner and a fitting ending to his four years at Aspen. Hes lived and breathed Aspen hockey since hes been a kid. Its fitting to end a career with that kind of out, Butler said. He has the desire and willingness to get in there and make things happen. He has that X factor. A notable omission from the list, among others, was senior goaltender Kody Hornburg. The MVP of the state championship posted a shutout in his final game, turning away all 23 Ralston Valley shots he faced. Despite his disenchantment with the votings outcome, Butler said he has little to complain about. Hes positive his entire roster feels the same way. To a man, I bet they would all take a state championship over being on the all-state team, Butler said. This is something those guys will remember for the rest of their lives. With the experience and the outpouring of support theyve received from the community, well all never forget it. Jon Maletzs e-mail address is


See more